Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dishonesty and Pretty Faces

Today in the New Orleans Times Picayune, I read an article about an alleged criminal gang operating around the country. This gang, however, is not the kind of gang anyone would normally consider when classifying gangsters. They do not carry AK 47s. Rather, this group of alleged criminal masterminds consists of handsome college students and adolescent high schoolers. These young people allegedly were part of a cheating ring in which smart college boys took the SAT for underachieving high school kids. Why am I even commenting on this seemingly petty crime when the papers are also filled with murders, rapes, and other heinous crimes. What angers me is that honesty and honor are casualties when thrown into the ring with self-interest and perverse competition.
These affluent high school students (and very likely their parents) were willing to sacrifice their honesty for admission to prestigious universities. Their acceptance into such hallowed halls, however, would be hollow. They did not earn scores necessary to gain admittance to some Ivy League university. Would these students, if accepted, even be able to perform in an academically challenging atmosphere? Their admission to school would be a lie. The first lesson these kids will learn is how to lie and cheat. Such people are the corporate thieves and swindlers of the nation. Will these juveniles learn a lesson or will Mama and Papa Pocketbook simply rescue them from this debacle? Can they learn a lesson and be redeemed?
And what of the fat cat boys who helped the high school kids cheat? Excellent role models, eh? Well, they apparently found a lucrative means of supplementing their college expenses. These young men allegedly hailed from the same Long Island area as did the high school kids they helped cheat. These men attended exclusive private universities, and some allegedly raked in hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars for showing up to take the SAT for the students. Did the college frat boys need more money for their kegs? For their dates with pretty coeds? Now, their reputations are tarnished. They even face expulsion from their schools. Greed and dishonesty may lead to their downfall.
Or will it? When did dishonesty become accepted? When did wanting to be the best mean lying to others and ourselves? Being a cheat isn't only taking advantage of the people or institutions the swindler wishes to deceive. In the long run, he or she is also lying to him or herself. Is attending a prestigious university so important that a student is willing to sell his or her soul?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wall Street and the Suits

Several incidents that directly have affected my own life have caused me to reflect on Wall Street and why so many citizens have staged protests across the country decrying the policies that have thrown the world into turmoil. I confess that I hold various banking accounts--as do most world citizens. My goal is not to be homeless when I'm old or imprisoned in some nursing home, surrounded by dementia-ridden patients. With the current economic situation strangling world finances, I may be working until I'm 150--if I'm lucky. However, I'm not one to moan about my own financial problems. Indeed, compared to what some people have gone through, I'm very fortunate this Thanksgiving Eve.
My relative prosperity has not blinded me to the greed and callousness of Wall Street. If I could withdraw my money without being taxed up the ass, I'd stuff the goods in my mattress, but the financial wizards have so worked it that we can't even withdraw the money for which we've slaved without being penalized. Let me pontificate on the indifference and callousness of Wall Street. The--primarily--men who run it are guilty of gross insensitivity and patronizing arrogance. During the summer, I met with my own advisor, an overweight, self-righteous pseudo-wizard. He'd managed to ruffle my proverbial feathers when he remarked that banks had given money to people who didn't "deserve a home." When he saw the look on my face, he quickly backpedaled, saying that they weren't "ready for a home." Now, I fully agree that many banks leant money to people who wanted homes bigger than they could afford, but I take great exception to the idea that some people "don't deserve a home." Who in hell does he think he is? Anyway, I went to Mr. Suit on an unrelated matter over the summer. He proceeded to lecture me as if I were some rube from nowhere or kid born yesterday. I realize it's his job to advise me, but when I say I want to do something else, it's his job to do as I say. It is money I slaved for in various teaching positions. If want to run away to Europe in a Roma caravan, I can do so and no puffed up piece of bourgeoise can tell me what to do, and frankly, I don't want to pour my money into funds that produce nothing and exploit others. Now, there was a time when I would have swallowed abuse because my family is of a class that this idiot would deem "not fit to own a home," but now, I don't put up with bullshit. I have more degrees than does this puffed up suit, and I pulled my money from his company.
Of course, I met even more ignorant, calloused pieces of crap along the way. I conveyed my goals to another suit who began to pontificate about what was best for ME. I understand he needs to trap another sucker for the next big swindle, but I'm not blinded by fancy talk from some suit. Reluctantly, the jerk off put my money where I demanded, but he looked like some round-faced, sulking kid. For whom does he work? Some giant, corrupt Wall Street firm? I don't want those idiots losing my hard-earned dollars or collecting them to exploit children sewing in a factory. I also expressed my concern to Mr. Suit that I didn't want to be some poor old person who was working at McDonald's because my money had evaporated. Mr. Suit had the unmitigated gall to say that these people hadn't planned well. No, you asshole, it's not always that. Not all of us have the resources to invest millions of dollars in stocks only to see companies abuse our trust. Some of us don't have millions to invest at all. Our means are modest, and we don't have the privilege of showing up in a shirt and tie to click a mouse behind a desk. Many of us earn our money by the sweat of our brow. Maybe these poor old people were given lousy advice by a moron like you who let their hard-earned money evaporate in a corporate collapse like we had a few years ago. Not every poor person is badly off because he or she was careless or a spendthrift. Many of them were duped by the promises of a bunch of parasites who received bailouts and then took bonuses. Maybe some of those poor souls flipping burgers at Mickie D's took the advice of Mr. Suit and his crummy associates. They put their faith in banks and greedy, incompetent businesses.
I'm sick of people who consider themselves "elite." Even my spin instructor, whose main talent is screaming "Up," has made ugly comments about people who died during Katrina. No, bimbo, not everyone could just leave. Not everyone had the resources to do so, and if you open your mouth again, I'll report your stupidity to the gym management. I'm sick of bullshit, and to Mr. Suit: My pulling my money from your bank will be the least of your problems. I'll put you in my novel. No, wait! I'd never write about anyone so boring!

Friday, November 11, 2011


Today is Veterans Day, 11/11/11. My novel, LOVE AT WAR, takes place during World War II, and not many of those veterans still grace this earth. Many, like my Uncle Russell, lie beneath foreign soil. Still others died years after coming home, returning to build homes and families. As young people, they piloted planes, parachuted into enemy territory, or served on ships. Military women often served as nurses or translators. Some, like Nuala in LOVE AT WAR, worked as covert operatives. I wrote LOVE AT WAR to tell the story of their sacrifice.
LOVE AT WAR, however, was not the first time I've created characters who were military veterans. In my as yet unpublished mystery novels, my main detective is a veteran of Iraq, and in BURIED TRUTHS, Dr. Wesley Chou braved the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. The storm, however, was not his first encounter with unspeakable horror. As a doctor in Iraq, Wesley faced death, carrying arms as he aided the wounded.
Remember the veterans this Veterans Day. As a gift to my readers, I will give an e-book version of one of my novels to the first three people who visit my website at www.violarussell.com. Post a comment about this blog in the "Questions" section, and then be sure to tell me which book you'd like (Love at War or Buried Truths). Please leave your e-mail. I will take comments through Sunday.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I read the news today, oh boy!

While reading THE TIMES PICAYUNE, I learned of two events that brought my novels to mind. The miniseries BAND OF BROTHERS will be packaged with the series THE PACIFIC and sold on DVD. In the New Orleans area, an original play by New Orleanian Jim Fitzmorris is making its debut at the Westwego Performing Arts Center. I thought of my novels for various reasons. LOVE AT WAR, my most recent publication (www.redrosepublishing.com), is set during WWII, a period that tested the world's resolve. Many of my characters, like those young people in the HBO series and like real soldiers, find themselves in uniform. Still others work as covert operatives, spying on the enemy and entrapping them. My novel begins in the summer of 1941, and within months, these carefree young people are fighting a war. They, like real soldiers, faced horror in Europe and in the Pacific.
FROM A LONG WAY OFF, currently making its debut in the New Orleans area, stars the amazing Dane Rhodes as a politician seeking redemption after Hurricane Katrina. In BURIED TRUTHS (www.sapphirebluepublishing.com), Heather Kerry and Wesley Chou also seek redemption for past sins in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Like the protagonist in FROM A LONG WAY OFF, Heather and Wesley allowed themselves to be victims of convention, but Katrina gives them a reason to make amends for their earlier failures.